Views from Christmas Week

sunrise over the Pacific
Sunrise view from the VRBO deck.

We spent Christmas together with our kids and our son’s girlfriend and family. This is our third Christmas together. We missed 2020 due to COVID — or it would be number four. This year, we rented a VRBO between our home and the Bay Area (where everyone but us lives). The house was amazing and it was a wonderful few days with family. My daughter and I had a mother-daughter day while the rest went to Solvang. I absolutely loved our time alone together. We spent so much time together while she was growing up that it was taken for granted. Now it’s a huge gift.

Christmas photo in Santa Barbara
The Christmas Crew
The Anderson Bakery in Santa Barbara
One of our musts in Santa Barbara for breakfast.
Statue at the marina in Santa Barbara
Statue at the marina.
Seawall at the Santa Barbara marina.
Seawall at the marina where the ocean and seaweed splashes over the wall.
selfie of mom and daughter
Mother daughter selfie on our much needed day together.
Path over the Santa Barbara marina barrier
At the end of the seawall you can walk the plank to a small beach.
On the Alley fish tacos
Fish tacos from On the Alley in the Santa Barbara marina. The best. I’m trying to find something close in AZ.

All of my son’s girlfriend’s family play stringed instruments. Two of the seven are professional musicians and we enjoyed Christmas Eve, Christmas and post Christmas concerts in our living room. Below are two samples of the amazing music we were treated to.

Christmas Eve concert snippet.

The road to Christmas

view from Santa Barbara during rain storm
Waiting for the kids to arrive during a California storm.

We arrived at our Christmas destination amidst a rain and wind storm. I’m so thankful that our day of driving was the day before the storm. We spent the night with friends close to our airbnb. I had anxiously awaited our kids and my son’s girlfriend’s family who drove from the Bay Area as all of California was engulfed in rain, wind and flooding

In the meantime, my husband and I trekked to Costco about 15 miles away from the airbnb. I’m a nervous nelly on freeways and with the rain, visibility was zero to three feet. I white knuckled it as a passenger and thought, “I’m only doing this for my kids.”

Once at Costco, we got drenched walking from the parking lot into the store — trying to cram both of us under one small umbrella. On the way home on the 101, the rain got even heavier if that’s possible. We watched in horror as the car in front of us tapped his brakes, spun out, then headlights moved towards us in our lane. Then he stopped, thankfully, made a U-turn across the three lanes and made his exit.

I was literally shaking. My husband slowed down and we crawled at 40 mph towards our exit, only to get a google warning on maps that there was a wreck right before our exit. We got off the 101 and took surface streets and safely, thankfully, arrived at the airbnb.

Our kids’ drives should have been five and a half hours, but turned into eight. The entire 101 freeway was closed due to flooding and boulders in the highway somewhere around San Luis Obsipo.

We stayed up waiting for them all to arrive. I knew I couldn’t sleep until everyone was accounted for. I gave big hugs to each carload that arrived. My daughter’s car arrived first, and finally my son’s last. Everyone was safely tucked into their beds. I finally got a good night’s sleep. This morning the sun is shining and we’re ready to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Merry Christmas! Stay safe and enjoy your time with your loved ones.

Christmas Eve view from Santa Barbara. Blue skies.
This morning on Christmas Eve, the sun came out.

On the road again

beach view in Santa Barbara
On our way to the beach!

I need to get packed. But, I need to do laundry first. The kitty is on her way to boarding. The lady at the pet boarding place said our Olive the cat will be boarding with Olive the pug. That should be interesting. Olive our cat is not a pug fan. Waffles is the only pug she’s met and all he wants to do is chase her. I hope they don’t place them in suites (cages) that face eachother.

One thing that definitely helped my stress level was packing and loading the car one day before. What a concept! We only need to wake up, shower and go.

A nine-hour drive awaits. I’m trying to have a positive outlook for the long drive. I’ve downloaded several books to listen to including John Grisham. I tend to have anxiety on the road, so I’m trying to frame the trip as an adventure. As something fun to do for nine hours — rather than dreading it. Maybe a positive outlook will change my reaction?

Instead of breaking up the drive into a couple days, we’re going for it. We’ll stop by my dad’s to drop off his Christmas present at the halfway point. But we’re not spending the night. We want to get to our destination.

The Airbnb is letting us check in four hours early, which I’m thankful for. One of my worries was that the owner hadn’t reached out to me yet. Now she has and we have all the details to get into our Christmas vacation house.

What excitement do you have planned for Christmas week?

Stress that’s entering my dreams

Carefree Christmas tree
The Christmas tree in our town circle.

The past few nights, I’ve had trouble sleeping. I wake up frequently in the night, tossing and turning and not being able to fall back to sleep for at least an hour.

Then I have stress dreams. I realized that’s what they were when in one dream my best friend showed me a beautiful ring that she had been given by her husband. She showed me the price tag of $4,000. I set it carefully back on her desk — and then it disappeared! I kept looking under the desk, through the desk drawers, all through the room, on the carpet. I kept going back to her with new ideas of where to look. Finally, I forced myself to wake up and realized it was a dream.

I have similar dreams where I can’t find something. In one I had two nights in a row, I was looking for a friend chicken place but couldn’t remember the name. I typed in In-N-Out on google maps to get directions to the chicken place. Only in a dream right? It had me driving for hours trying to find the restaurant.

I think it’s the pressure of Christmas vacation coming up including the nine-hour drive we’ll take this week. I absolutely hate driving and I have high anxiety over long car rides. Then there’s the worry that our family will all make it to the house we rented where we’re going to spend the week. The kids and girlfriend’s family are all driving from the Bay Area to Santa Barbara.

Then I worry about getting into the Airbnb house and also worry that the owner ripped us off and I’ve got 12 people to house for Christmas.

Once we make the drive and get settled, I’m sure this anxiety will leave. It helps a bit to write about it, too. The absurdity of my worries and dreams are exposed.

For example, my son’s car is in the shop and I worried about how he and his girlfriend would make it for Christmas. I started googling everything from Amtrak, flights and Greyhound.

I asked my daughter how they were getting down to Santa Barbara. She said “We had a group chat last night and the nine of us have it all figured out.” Of course. They are all adults. They don’t need mommy to fix it. One worry off my list.

Do you think stress is common over the holidays? Or is it a result of being isolated for so long that makes it more stressful this year to gather — and the news of COVID spiking?

What’s going to happen with Omicron?

Christmas family gathering
Here’s our Merry Christmas crowd pre-COVID 2019.

I knew there would be another variant once the first, second and third waves of COVID passed us by. What I’m afraid of is traveling for Christmas. We have plans to go to California for a week and have our kids and our son’s girlfriend’s family join us. We’re a Merry group of 12.

With Omicron officially in California this week, will there be sheltering in place in Calif.? Will there be travel restrictions for out-of-staters like us? This could seriously put a damper on our plans — and be quite costly as well.

Early in the Calif. shutdowns, travelers from out of state were required to quarantine for two weeks. My husband had driven back to his office in CA from AZ to meet with a client and get some things out of his office. He wasn’t allowed in the building without the two-week quarantine.

With the vaccines will things be open? Only time will tell and seriously there isn’t a heck of a lot of time before our Christmas-week trip. It’s past the cancellation date for our Airbnb, too. I’m hoping and praying for the best and that this two-year planned gathering goes forward.

All I want for Christmas is to be with my family.

pug in Christmas sweater
Waffles in his cozy Christmas sweater.

Are you seeing any new COVID restrictions where you live? Do you think things will be normal for the holidays? Do you have plans to travel and would you cancel those plans?

What a week it was!

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Waffles at the park. Some unknown person decorated park benches.

What a whirlwind week we had for Christmas. It was fun, but I’m exhausted. We had our second annual Christmas with my son’s girlfriend’s family. We are a family of four and they are a family of nine, plus my dad. Looking back on the past few days, I did a lot of cooking and dishes. It’s a good thing I like to cook — and I don’t mind cleaning up!

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Some of the fun stats from our week included the food we went through:

7 dozen eggs

6 dozen Honeycrisp apples

1 full-size prime rib

2 hams

8 packages of oxtails for soup

8 packages of sweet Italian sausages for sausage and peppers

1 giant pot of split pea soup

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We also enjoyed my son’s charcuterie and veggie platters before each dinner.

I can’t say how much fun it is to be around an energetic, athletic, intelligent and musically-talented family. I’m inspired and in awe. Also, I was amazed to see how well everyone got along — all the time. Coming from a small family, I feel like I missed out on something by having only one sibling.

I will admit as much fun as the past week was, I’m glad to have my quiet and solitude. I’m ready to start the New Year and get back to my work.

On Christmas Eve, we were treated to a viola concert by two of the siblings who are professional musicians. Although the lighting is terrible, here’s a snippet:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Waffles in his Christmas sweater.

What are your thoughts about family togetherness for the holidays?

This time of year, take time to breathe!

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My children’s first Christmas picture together.

It’s that time of year and feeling festive, I agreed to go to more events than normal. But while I’m bouncing from event to event, I’m stressed thinking of all the work I have at home to do.

 

Last night I was downtown for the Palm Springs Walk of the Inns and the Palm Springs Woman’s Club. I baked a double batch of snickerdoodles for the bake sale for the PSWC. Today I’m off to a luncheon fashion show with a friend at Wally’s. But, I really have so much stuff to do around the house to get ready for Christmas.

I have to find a tree! I have to clean out my kids’ rooms for the guests (We invited my son’s girlfriend and her family to stay with us Christmas week.) I have to meal plan and grocery shop and yeah — shop for presents, too. So many to dos are filling my lists. It’s freaking me out a bit.

The entire tree thing seems too much. There’s a tree seller down the street and during an evening walk, my husband and I stopped by to look. I only want a little tree, nothing stupendous. Just a four-footer or so. I just about choked when I saw the price tag on the smallest tree on the lot — $225! I remember when I’d pick up a tree in front of the grocery store for $30. I’ve been against fake trees on principle all these years. But, I think those principles are now telling me that it’s a crime to buy a real tree and pay a small fortune just to have the garbage man haul it off in a couple weeks. It seems so wasteful to destroy a tree, too, for a few week’s pleasure.

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My son in the Palm Springs Christmas Lights parade in the Nutcracker Sleigh next to the Sugar Plum Fairy (pink tutu).

 

One funny story about the Christmas tree lot near our house: I remember when my kids were young and one night we walked there to pick out a tree. My husband carried our toddler son on his shoulders. I was pushing the stroller with our infant daughter while holding on to our Rottie’s leash. We walked the few blocks to the tree lot and began walking in an out of the rows of trees. Something jumped out from under one of the trees — scaring me to death! It was Sherman our black cat! I guess he couldn’t stand being left out. I had to walk back to the house with baby and dog in tow, herding the cat home, too!

Now with my busy schedule on my mind, it’s my saving grace to take time for myself. I’m grounded with my morning routine of walking, praying and writing. I am forcing myself to swim at noon Masters a couple days a week. And then I find a moment to sit in the back yard, close my eyes, listen to the birds and breathe.christmas

What’s your secret for staying calm through all the Holiday fun activities and things you have to do?